High Precision Micro Production Technologies (Hi-Micro)
Product miniaturization and micro-systems have been strong drivers of technological change, with a significant impact on the manufacturing industry. Precision micro-parts are the key enabler to product functionality and performance in a broad range of applications such as life-sciences, medical devices, consumables and telecommunication facilities. Micro Injection Moulding (μIM) is one widely applied process for polymer 3D micro-parts, and micro Powder Injection Moulding (μPIM) is a moulding technology capable for complex geometrical components made of ceramics. Currently, the process chain for complex micro injection moulded micro parts is characterized by segmentation into specialized steps, often even further limited by available manufacturing processes at shop floor level. Available technologies are clearly at their limits. Furthermore, inappropriate coordination in-between and adaption to required process specifications renders it expensive, slow and prone to failure. The following are a few identified main technical challenges in the current process chain hindering European stakeholders from becoming more globally competitive, taking/holding the market leadership and expanding rapidly to generate new jobs:
- Assembled tool inserts are time-consuming to produce and result in high tool costs, insufficient and ineffective thermal management in injection moulding of micro 3D components;
- Concurrent design methodology and tolerance guidelines for advanced micro manufacture are not available;
- Enabling precision manufacturing technologies and the process chain still need to be harmonized;
- In-line product quality control system is still primitive and cannot fulfil the requirements of high speed;
- System integration of multi-component moulding, overmoulding and measuring for fragile, high accuracy multi-material micro parts is not available.
To overcome these limitations, the Hi-Micro project proposes an innovative process chain for precision μIM and μPIM, using Additive Manufacturing (AM) to produce monolithic tool inserts with integrated complex internal channels for efficient thermal management and process control. At the same time, enabling precision manufacturing technologies will be developed to post-process the tool insert features. Special metrology techniques based on computer-tomography (CT) will be applied to control the quality of the integrated complex internal channels. Handling system and high-speed in-line quality control system for non-statistic quality control will be developed and integrated into an industrial production platform.